by Kate Boyle
What happened to male or female, boy or girl, man or woman? Well, in the land of Facebook, those gender distinctions are no longer the only options available. Facebook announced on Thursday that they would now be providing over fifty different terms that individuals can use to identify their gender. Some of the options consist of transgender, bi-sexual, or androgynous as well as the ability to choose which pronoun one would like to be identified as – him, her, or them.
After years of lobbying efforts from a variety of gay and transgender users, Facebook gave in. The list was put together after at-length discussions with leaders of the LGBT community.
While Facebook’s move is seen as accepting and tolerant to those who identify as something other than male or female, there is no way to negate the fact that there are only two genders. Jeff Johnston, an issue analyst for Focus on the Family said it best:
“Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It’s impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves – male and female,” Johnston told the Associated Press.
Facebook is the first social media outlet to offer any such customizable gender options but not the first organization; a number of colleges have done the same. Bellevue College in Washington, for example, doesn’t even offer male and female choices but rather “feminine” or “masculine” along with other gender-neutral identities. Bellevue LGBTQ Center adviser Colin Donovan states that the reason for giving other gender options is to help the school be able to design better classes and programs to help LGBTQ students succeed.
Because Facebook is a private entity, they are allowed to do as they please. Many educational institutions, however, are not private, they are taxpayer funded – including Bellevue College. As the options for gender become more and more abundant, what kind of accommodations will be expected? What kind of things will taxpayers be required to pay for? Bellevue College already stated the next step will be pushing for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.